Farewell to outdated infrastructure
Updated: 2012-11-02 08:03
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
New York, New York, it's a wonderful town. But I never realized how fragile it was until Hurricane Sandy hit the Big Apple.
The images of the carnage caused by Sandy resembled those from a war zone, and more than 30 people in New York are known to have died as a result of the rampaging superstorm.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been living without tap water and electricity and one of the world's oldest and most extensive subway systems, which millions of people depend on every day, was paralyzed due to flooding in some of the tunnels. A fire in Breezy Point, Queens, reduced more than 100 houses to ashes.
Looking across the Hudson River at the Manhattan skyline from my apartment, the normally glitzy skyline is now dark at night. In fact, on Monday night around 9 pm, the Hudson overflowed, turning my apartment building into an island. The flood inundated the ground floor, shutting down the elevator, Internet and cable TV. For a day, we were without access to information and didn't know what was happening beyond our window.
But we are among the lucky ones compared with the millions of people in the states of New York and New Jersey who are suffering from power and water outages that will continue for at least days to come.
As New York started its difficult recovery, some of my colleagues spent three or four hours driving or riding a bus from Queens to Manhattan on Wednesday. The traffic was so bad that my colleague and I spent 50 minutes getting to the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel only 2 kilometers away.
Many shops and businesses, including some large financial institutions on Wall Street, are still closed, and they will remain so for some time.
The city's infrastructure is old and vulnerable, and the disruption has been so much and so prolonged that many people are questioning whether the city that claims to be the greatest in the world still lives up to that billing.
And we have not really heard the two presidential candidates debating how to improve the United States' outdated infrastructure.
Instead, we have heard Republican candidate Mitt Romney arguing for more defense spending, even though the US defense budget has doubled over the last decade and is more than the rest of the 10 top-spending nations combined.
In fact, many Americans do not know that a B-2 bomber costs $2.2 billion, which would be enough money to reinforce some subway tunnels and upgrade utility systems in New York, and be of great help to disaster relief efforts in the hurricane-hit areas.
Sandy has blown away the bland campaign rhetoric that the news media had been bombarding us with nonstop just days ago.
Romney is still campaigning, but no one, at least not on the East Coast, seems to care what he has to say these days. Instead of labeling Russia the No 1 geopolitical foe, it would have been more sensible for Romney to declare Hurricane Sandy the biggest threat to the US. But it is too late for that now.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama has been widely praised for being a true commander-in-chief by responding rapidly to the crisis and visiting disaster zones in New Jersey and other East Coast cities.
It is time for New York to live up to its claim to be the greatest city in the world, which means Americans need to say farewell to floods and power outages. And this means a farewell to arms.
The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 11/02/2012 page8)